GIANTS OR GRASSHOPPERS?

When Israel sent scouts to explore the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb returned confident—”Let’s go at once to take the land. We can certainly conquer it!”

The rest were not so sure, and spread a bad report among the Israelites—”We can’t possibly attack those people, for they are stronger than we are! The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there were huge. We even saw Nephilim there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them.”

THEY SEEMED LIKE GRASSHOPPERS IN THEIR OWN EYES

And so the people wept and grumbled and moaned. In their rebellion, they clamored to return to Egypt as slaves rather than enter their destiny as God’s chosen in their Promised Land!

Do you see what these faithless spies did to sow fear and defeat among their fellow Israelites? Assailed by doubt, they exaggerated and amplified the enemy assets, and minimized God’s. They made God a grasshopper like themselves, and their foe like giants! No wonder the Lord said, How long will these people treat me with contempt?

EVEN THE FAITHFUL ARE PRONE TO FORGET

Forgotten was the Lord’s miraculous liberation from their hardship and hard labor in a foreign land. Forgotten was God’s parting of the Red Sea, allowing Israel to cross on dry ground before swallowing Pharaoh’s armies and chariots in a watery grave. The manna? The quail? The water gushing from a desert rock? The cloud by day and the fire by night? All of them – forgotten— forfeited along with His myriad promises and miracles.

The result? Israel wandered like grasshoppers for 40 years, dying in the desert, giving place to a new generation of gutsy go-getters, ready to enter the land of their destiny, undeterred by giants or grasshoppers, trusting God to help them conquer the land that He had promised them. Conquest relied on their absolute dependency on God, circling walled cities with armies of praise, watching Him set ambushes for the enemy, taking their marching orders from the Lord each step of the way.

THEIR WAR CRY?

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

What are the things coming against you in this season?
Do you see them as giants or grasshoppers?
Where is God asking you to remember His promises and past victories in your behalf?

BATTLE OF THE MIND

Mindsets are so deeply embedded in the landscape of our being that we hardly know they are there. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”Pr.23:7

Mindsets are entrenched patterns of thinking that set up their own little ecosystem. They are so deeply embedded in the landscape of our being that we don’t actually realize they are there: they become part of us. Mindsets originate and take root in the context of critical and sometimes traumatic life events, etching rigid belief structures that begin to shape the way we live and respond to life.

The problem is that mindsets are mixtures – subtle blends of truth, half-truths, lies and distortions that hold a kind of superficial validity because of our past experience. They tend to give us false security by masquerading as protection and fortification against personal injury. I have to protect myself or nobody else will. I am so unworthy that no one can love me. Nobody can tell me what to do – I am my own master. The world is a dangerous place and you never know when you are going to take a hit. I am alone in this world and must fend for myself.

MINDSETS ARE MIXTURES OF TRUTH AND LIE
These aren’t just random thoughts but profound emotional responses to life. They insinuate themselves into our habits, attitudes and relationships—eroding here, depositing there—until they reshape the landscape of our lives. You can detect their presence, however, by the problems they generate. Illness. Depression. Shame. Doubt. Worry. Broken relationships. Patterns of dysfunction that repeat and recycle throughout our lives.

Mindsets are an enemy strategy to sow discord and destruction. Take for example the napping toddler who wakes up on the beach to find herself alone and forever fights the feeling of abandonment. The little boy whose erotic encounter with a baby sitter instills devastating patterns of shame that he battles all of his adult life. The woman whose emotionally distant alcoholic father causes her to struggle with low self-worth in her closest relationships.

These mindsets run counter to Christ. They are out of alignment with the Truth. They bind us in brokenness and unbelief until we repent, relinquish and exchange “lies” for the Truth. Jesus, show me the lies I have come into agreement with. Lord, take this lie. What is the truth you want to give me instead?

WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE MIND OF CHRIST
We have the One who came so that we might be set free to have life and have it to the full! We have the Spirit of Truth living in us, to guide us into all truth. We have been given the mind of Christ in exchange for enemy lies and distortions.

CONSIDER
What are the things that seem to keep tripping you up in life? What patterns do you notice repeating over and over? Ask Jesus to show you the lies that inhabit your thought life. What is the truth that he wants to give you in exchange?

MAKING ROOM FOR HIS WORD

Someone once said, “Each of us is an Innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.”

When Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, she wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. Jesus later challenged the Pharisees, whose rejection of the Word of God and the reality of His sonship made them slaves to sin and death: “You are trying to kill me,” he said, “because you have no room in your hearts for my word.”

No Room . . .

I feel the weight of Jesus’ words. Have I made room – real space in my heart and habit – for the Word of God? Do I quench the work of the Holy Spirit and silence the voice of my Savior by giving room to other things but not really giving room to Him? Does He look at my heart and see no room in the inn?

We all make room for something. If it is not the Word, then what is it? Work? Television? Internet? Shopping?

One in three Americans open their Bible at least weekly. That means that more than 60% of us make little or no room for the Word of God! Dear friends, this Word is our spiritual bread. We cannot live apart from the active ongoing sustenance of God’s Word in our daily lives. . . though we may surely try. And when we do, when we drift from the sweetness of His Word and presence in our lives, there is a withering within. I can almost here the rustling of dry leaves on the dry riverbed of my soul.

The prophet Amos spoke of the coming famine. . .

“Not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

Notice, this is not a famine of the Word, but a famine of the HEARING of the Word.

Why is my language not clear to you? Jesus queried the bewildered scholars. Because you are unable to hear what I say…

He who belongs to God HEARS WHAT GOD SAYS.

As you begin a new year, what is your deepest desire for your journey with the Lord in the season ahead?

How do you feel about the room set apart in your heart and habit for the Word to dwell in you richly?

Are there things you must give less room in order to make more room for hearing the voice of the Lord?

A GRATEFUL HEART CHANGES THE ATMOSPHERE!

I stared at that sentence as though it were written in a foreign language. Lord, I don’t get this. I helped write those very words in Prayer Boot Camp, our prayer discipleship workbook. I heard your Spirit impress the importance of this reality upon our hearts. I’ve actually seen it change the atmosphere during Hidden Manna prayer sessions. So why am I consistently unable to apply it to my own life?

This has been an ongoing conversation between the Lord and me for several years! There are moments when I am able to grab hold of the concept, but I somehow always manage to lose it again.

God says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I keep asking Him, How can I be grateful that our business has suffered devastating loss since 2008? How can I be thankful that my 23 year old niece has Stage IV melanoma? How can I thank God that a dear friend is enduring chemotherapy for the second time in two years or that the city is threatening to shut down another friend’s use of his property for gatherings that give glory to God? How can I be grateful that several people I care about are watching their children make poor sexual choices with demoralizing consequences?

Thankfully, God doesn’t tire of my continual questions! And He has recently shown me something that is changing my understanding of how to make this a reality in my daily life:

There is a difference between being thankful FOR something and being thankful IN something.

Of course I’m not thankful for business losses. But in the middle of those losses, I can be thankful that God has miraculously provided for us all along the way. I can be thankful that His grace consistently shows up in unexpected ways and places.

Certainly I am not thankful for melanoma rearing its ugly head in my niece’s young life. But I am thankful for how our family has banded together to come alongside her with help, encouragement and trust that God really is doing something in the midst of her battle for healing.

I am not thankful that my friend is once again battling cancer. But I am thankful for the way he and his family stand against it. For the way they keep God in the forefront at all times. For the sense of humor they deploy to confront the disease and keep it at bay. For the anonymous “angel” who shows up in the middle of the night before each chemo appointment to leave gifts and scripture verses of encouragement at the front door.

In all of this, I am thankful that I am God’s beloved daughter, that He knows me and still loves me with an everlasting love! I am thankful that He sees all of these circumstances and has them all in hand. I am thankful that He gives me daily reminders of His love and care, if I will just take the time to notice them.

I am thankful that He is the one and only Most High Holy God!

And I am thankful that God does not require me to be thankful for those things that relentlessly assault me. His word says,

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Where is God inviting you to lift your gaze and praise to Him? How can you thank Him in that place?

WANTON OR FIXED?

My computer started having problems—there seemed to be some sort of malware running in the background. At first it was just annoying. Then it began to slow down my computer, interfering with its basic operations. What is it doing? Why can’t I shut it off? No amount of technical support or anti-virus intervention seemed to help. Finally, this subversive code completely disabled my computer’s ability to function.

Have you noticed? Our thought life can be a lot like this.

There is the upfront message and function of what we do and say in our lives; and then there is this underlying subtext, the code running in the recess of our thought life, sneaking around in our control tower—largely unsupervised—taking up valuable space on our hard drive and, perhaps, causing more trouble than we know.

Have you ever paused to consider the content of this interior conversation, this subtext— your mindset? Is it positive or negative? Affirming or complaining? Kind or critical? Truth or lie?

I must confess: I am shocked by how reckless my thoughts can become if allowed to wander unchecked like an unruly child on the runways of my mind. While I may be fairly disciplined in other areas of my life, there is an inclination to laziness when it comes to my thought life. It is prone to be flabby. Fickle. Self-indulgent. Disorderly.

Paul is very clear. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Or, as The Message puts it—Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.

So, I’m becoming more deliberate and less wanton in my thought life. I am setting a watch, asking for spiritual super-vision to set a scanning operation when my thoughts start running out of sync with the will of God. This enables me to be more intentional about appreciation, more focused on the positive, more mind-full of Christ and all that belongs to him.

I am practicing the gift of divine replacement: fill your minds and meditate on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

How is your thought life sabotaging spiritual growth? What kind of relinquishment and surrender will release you to the mind-fullness of Christ?

COMFORTED IN HIS PRESENCE. .

It’s been a difficult few months in our household. I am sitting in the waiting room writing this while my son has an MRI. On our way here, we stopped at the veterinary hospital to visit our beloved dog Charlie, who has kidney failure; her recovery is uncertain. My daughter is resting at home with an unresolved concussion. And six weeks ago my own MRI for some headaches and dizziness uncovered a few “findings.” Shockingly, I am not worried at all.

But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. 2Cor. 4:7-8

I prayed for peace as they slid me into the MRI tube. I felt the Lord’s hand on me and had a distinct image of him standing over me, quietly holding me in his circle of safekeeping. Although I can’t explain it, I could literally feel the prayers of close friends as I lay quietly in this chamber. I had been warned about the loud banging on the metal, but rather than feeling rattled by it, I experienced each bang as a reminder of God’s presence. He was tangible.

This was a far cry from my earlier struggles with anxiety. The slightest medical incident used to trigger anxiety, even panic for me. To experience the overwhelming peace of His presence in this way, without the slightest angst, was profoundly transformational. It was also encouraging for someone whose family line suffers from anxiety—a generational curse, now broken. I kept my eyes closed, imagining and knowing that God was very near.

This peace stayed with me, even when I received the doctor’s phone call to discuss the MRI “findings.” His peace was with me as I followed up with a neurologist. After several more doctor appointments and a meeting with the head of neurology, it has been determined that these findings are “incidental”! I only require occasional follow up.

My daughter’s concussion is lasting weeks longer than anticipated. Although my mother’s heart wants to reach out and take control, she is away at college and running her own life. Though she continues to come home to recover, she makes her own decisions about how much homework, reading, and resting is enough. I don’t think she is resting enough. But God knows her needs, so I’m praying more. I am trusting Him.

I am not crushed. I’m not perplexed. I’m not experiencing anxiety. I know God has us covered. I pray. I pray a lot.

My strategy is not profound, but it works. I pray. I trust. I know that God is with me, and that is enough. I am at peace—the kind that surpasses all understanding.

This is a season of testing for me—not the standard, one-size-fits-all kind of test, but a deep faith introspection and soul searching that causes me to ponder many questions as I wait in doctors’ offices, listen to opinions and, yes, pray.

Where do you need to trust God in circumstances that are far from desirable? How does prayer help you experience God’s joy and peace, even in the midst of testing and trials?

BRICK OF ADVERSITY?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, our house church in Southern California established a partnership with Pastor Sherman to help rebuild his church in New Orleans. One night I had a dream:
I’m telling Pastor Sherman how impressed we are by their progress in the midst of such chaos and destruction. He turns and looks me in the eye. “You realize don’t you—the most important thing is not to run from difficulty but to embrace it!” Suddenly we are standing on a huge pile of bricks and rubble. Pastor Sherman begins digging through the pile, pulling out bricks one by one– each with a name like Perseverance, Vision, Wisdom, Faith—and tossing them aside.

“I must find the one brick needed to rebuild the church,” he explains, digging deeper in the pile. Finally, he reaches down to the very bottom and pulls up the brick he’s been looking for. It is larger and heavier than the rest. Beaming, he turns and holds it up with both hands for me to see. I am so shocked that I awaken with a jolt.

The name emblazoned on the brick? ADVERSITY.

This is not the brick I was expecting. In fact, it is the exact opposite of the thing I thought God would provide for the restoration of His church! Can it be a mistake?

Friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead rejoice as you share in the suffering of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.

Rejoice in our adversity? Embrace the fellowship of His sufferings? This is crazy theology, right? Especially for those who have bought into the subtle notion pervading the American church that suggests our lives ought to be trouble free. And if they are not, then there is something wrong—wrong with our faith, wrong with our God, or wrong with us.

But this is not the view of our heavenly Father. I am learning – slowly—that He is teaching us to embrace our sufferings, to engage our adversity, not in a spirit of despair but in the hope of His great promise to use our trials to liberate us to the fullness of His resurrection life. In fact, our adversities are, as one writer says, the diamond dust with which heaven polishes its jewels. They are the very thing God is using to rebuild us into the likeness of Christ, so that by sharing in His sufferings, we may also partake of His glory!

How do you understand the role of suffering in your life? How do you respond to God’s invitation to embrace the “brick of adversity” in your life with new understanding?

LIVING FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed,” Jesus said, “nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

Ebola. A dreaded word. A couple of months ago, it seemed a distant, non-threatening issue to most Americans. Today it consumes our national conversation as the medical community and government scramble to contain it. The biggest concern for my daughter and her neighbors in the Dallas area is, “Who may be transmitting it? Is the person standing next to me carrying it?”

Ebola is just one of many frightening issues in today’s world. Sometimes we might wonder, “Where are you, God? I pray for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth as it is heaven. Where is your kingdom?”

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” That is not only for the distant day when you arrive in heaven. It’s also for today—this very day! Today, if you are in Christ, you are a carrier of the kingdom of God!

The floundering world around you is desperate to see God in you. Whether people know it or not, they want to say, “I am not concerned that this person standing next to me might be carrying Ebola, or some other dreaded disease, because I see that the person standing next to him is a carrier of the kingdom of God!”

How can this become reality in your life? There is only one way—time spent in the Throne Room with the King of heaven and earth! Listen to who God says you are. Accept what He says about you. Believe His truth instead of the lies and deceptions the enemy uses to trap you in worldly mindsets. Put on the garments of righteousness that His Son purchased for you.

Overcome present worldly chaos with present kingdom peace! When you are fully established in His presence, you are able to bring the reality of His peace into your everyday life and circumstances. When you have the peace of God, you have peace with God, and that gives you “peace currency” to extend the peace of Christ to others.

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20.

You are a citizen of heaven. His invitation to you in this season is, “Come up here!” Live in and from my Kingdom!”

How do you experience the kingdom of God within you? What would it look like for you to be a carrier of His kingdom? What kind of steps can you make to begin living from heaven to earth?

IN THE KING’S THRONE ROOM

Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers. Song of Songs 1:4

Many of God’s people have recognized a new season upon us. It’s a season of unprecedented intimacy with the Lord. He has issued His personal invitation to each of His people: “Come up here and live from my Throne Room!”

“Come up where, Lord? How do I get there? I live on earth. Can I really live from your Throne Room right now?”

Oh, the sweetness of the Lord! He delights in our questions and is happy to give us insight when we pause to ask. Will you join me on a journey into His Kingdom presence?

Imagine yourself standing outside the door of the Throne Room. Look in. See how glorious, bright and beautiful it is inside? There He is—our heavenly Father seated on His throne! The 24 elders are bowing down, casting down their golden crowns. They are singing:

“Holy, Holy, Holy,
Is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Pause for a moment and behold the sight! Do you see the Lord sweetly beckoning you to join Him? Relish His invitation. You are about to enter the courts of heaven, the most holy place in all creation!

Wait!

What are you wearing?

Unworthiness? Shame? Guilt? Condemnation? Hopelessness?

“Is this appropriate attire for my Throne Room?” asks the Lord. “Does that belong in the presence of my holiness? Didn’t my Son buy and pay for that? Won’t you take it off and give it back to Him before you come inside? After all, it belongs to Him, not to you.”

Right! He paid for it! He wants it back!

Imagine yourself taking off each filthy garment:

My Unworthiness—I give it to you, Jesus. It’s washed in your blood and it belongs to you.
My Shame—I give it to you, Jesus. It’s washed in your blood and it belongs to you.
My Guilt—I give it to you, Jesus. It’s washed in your blood and it belongs to you.
My Condemnation—I give it to you, Jesus. It’s washed in your blood and it belongs to you.
My Hopelessness—I give it to you, Jesus. It’s washed in your blood and it belongs to you.

What else? Ask Jesus, “Am I wearing any other inappropriate thing that you have bought and paid for?” Wait for Him to answer. If He shows you something else, imagine yourself taking it off. Give it back to Him.

When you are finished disrobing, ask God, “How do you want to clothe me instead?”

Wait for Him to answer———

Forgiveness?
Love?
Joy?
Peace?
Hope?

Pause to receive each garment He has for you.

Ask Him, “Do you want to clothe me in anything else your Son has bought and paid for?”

If He shows you more, put it on. Put on your pure white robes of righteousness, purchased for you with the blood of the Lamb!

When you feel you are clothed in the fullness of the new wardrobe Jesus purchased for you, enter into the magnificent glory of the Throne Room!

Move with the heavenly throng…
Linger with the Lord…
Join with the heavenly chorus in worship:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
Be praise and honor and glory and power,
For ever and ever!
Amen.”

What are you experiencing in the Throne Room? Can you imagine living from there to earth? How would your life be different if you lived wearing the garments Jesus has purchased for you?

BECOMING A PRAYER

Pray always. Most of us read this admonition with a sense of bewilderment. How on earth is this possible? How can pray alwaysbecome a practical reality in the believer’s life, let alone in my life? It seems as onerous and unattainable as any two words in the Bible.

Until we consider Jesus.

Jesus enjoyed unbroken, uninterrupted communion with the Father. When He walked on water, He was praying. When He fed the 5,000, he was praying. When He healed the woman with an issue of blood, He was praying. Whether gathering children in His arms or contending with Pharisees, Jesus was praying. In all of His life, in His every transaction with man and God, Jesus prayed.

Do you know why? Because HE WAS A PRAYER.

He didn’t just go pray for an hour, get His marching orders from God, and then go do something else. He was always in perfect communion and alignment with the heart of God. He never paused in representing the full and glorious expression of His Father’s love– in word, in deed, in his very way of being. And that is what prayer is – coming into agreement and alignment with the Father’s heart in such a way that He becomes the impulse for our every action.

I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, Jesus said. I do only what I see the Father doing.

Jesus did not strive to pray always.

It was the fabric of His being, the very breath He breathed.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

Nor did He plead, beg or wonder what provision He might hope for from the Father. Give us this day our daily bread.

He never doubted that God would answer His prayer.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

He prayed out of the fullness of the Father’s authority because, as He declared, I and the Father are One.

Where in your life are you struggling to believe Him when he says, You can ask anything in my name, and I will do it? Have you asked Him to so fill you with His fullness that you too might become a prayer?